As we know, there are interesting races for District Attorney in Harris, Dallas, and Bexar Counties. Turns out there’s one in Fort Bend County, too.
As Fort Bend County District Attorney, John Healey has faced competitive elections before.
Since a Democrat hasn’t won a countywide election in decades, those races were generally against fellow Republicans in primaries. For the first time since 1994, Healey will square off against a Democratic challenger – his former employee, Wilvin Carter – in a general election race that may be his tightest yet.
The campaign has included allegations that Healey violated responsibilities of his office when he waited months longer than other colleagues to inform defense attorneys and defendants that their cases may have been affected by a state chemist found to have fabricated results.
Carter grew up in Birmingham, Ala., in a neighborhood where police and prosecutors were treated with suspicion. Through a circuitous route that included doing legal research at CNN’s headquarters in Atlanta and eventually graduating law school at Texas Southern University, Carter was drawn to the work, interning in the Harris County District Attorney’s office, the state Attorney General’s office and his school’s Earl Carl Institute.
Carter, who lives in Missouri City but has practiced law in Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties, decided to run because of one particular case where a child was charged with assault for pushing his teacher at school.
“It was just one of those cases that had fallen into my lap one too many times,” explained Carter. The district attorney has a great deal of discretion when it comes to accepting and pursuing charges in a case, and Carter felt that Healey’s decision to accept charges in this case was wrong. “The school didn’t want to deal with him, his teachers didn’t want to deal with it and when they put him in the system, their solution was to punish him for his behavior,” said Carter.
Instead, he wants to expand the number and scope of pretrial diversion programs in the county, particularly for first-time, non-violent offenders. “As the district attorney, I would be able to build relationships with these schools and school board members, the superintendent and say, ‘What can we do?’ ” said Carter. More options will help clear case loads and allow the office to focus on more serious crimes, according to Carter.
I like the sound of that. DA seems like an office where even strong partisans might be willing to cross over given the right circumstances. I don’t know anything about the allegations against Healey, but that is the sort of thing that could sway people. There’s also been a strong effort to turn out Democrats in Fort Bend this year, which of course wouldn’t hurt Carter’s prospects. I haven’t followed this race so I won’t venture a guess as to what the odds are of a Wilvin Carter victory, but I’ll be keeping an eye on this one on Election Day.